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WOMAN'S  LIFE                    149
but she is in love with man, and being in love with man she is in love with life. That makes her work a little more neatly at her embroidery and imagine she is in love with the rainbow-coloured embroidery itself, as symbolizing life, which seems to her so beautiful. Very probably she is embroidering the design of a pair of mandarin ducks for someone's pillow, those mandarin ducks which always go together, swim together, nest together in pairs, one male, the other female. If she stretches her imagination too much, she is liable to forget herself and make a wrong stitch. She tries again, but it goes wrong again. She pulls hard at the silken thread, a little too hard, and it slips out of the needle. She bites her lips and feels annoyed. She is in love.
That feeling of annoyance at a vague unknown something, perhaps at spring and the flowers, that sudden overwhelming sense of loneliness in the world, is nature's sign of a girl's maturity for love and marriage. With the repressions of society and social conventions, a girl did her best to cover up this vague and strong yearning, but subconsciously youth dreamed on. Yet pre-marital love was a forbidden fruit in old China, open courtship was impossible, and she knew that to love was to suffer. For that reason, she dared not let her thoughts dwell too fondly on the spring and the flowers and the butterflies, which are symbols of love in ancient poetry, and if she were educated, she would not allow herself to spend too much time on poetry, lest her emotions be touched too profoundly. She kept herself busy with her home duties and guarded her feelings as sacredly as a delicate flower preserves itself from ^:emature contact with the butterflies. She wished to wait until the time should come when love would be lawful and sanctified by marriage, and happy was she who escaped all entanglements of passion. Yet nature sometimes conquered in spite of all human restraints. For like all forbidden fruits, the keenness of sexual attraction was enhanced by its rarity. It was nature's law of compensation. Once a girl's heart was distracted, according to the Chinese theory, love stopped at nothing. That was actually the common belief back of the careful seclusion of women.
Even in her deepest seclusion every girl generally learned